Chaining mentally ill people cannot be allowed, the Supreme Court said today while terming as "atrocious" and "inhuman" such conduct in a faith-based mental asylum in Uttar Pradesh.
A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer said that chaining people with mental illness was violative of their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution, which deals with life and personal liberty, and their dignity cannot be compromised.
It made the observations while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal who has said that persons with mental illness were chained in a faith-based mental asylum in Budaun district of Uttar Pradesh in violation of provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017.
The court perused the photographs of the patients who had been chained and said it was a matter of great concern.
"These are mentally challenged persons. You (petitioner) have placed the photographs and they all are chained. It is atrocious," the bench observed, adding that "something has to be done immediately for these poor people".
The court asked the petitioner to call a law officer of the Centre so that appropriate interim orders could be passed.
Later, when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared in the matter, the bench asked him to see the photographs annexed with the petition.
"How this can be done?," the bench asked Mr Mehta, who said it was inhuman that these persons were chained.
"In a case where a patient may be violent, even that does not mean that he will be chained. It cannot be allowed," the bench said.
Mr Mehta told the court that he would seek instructions in the matter after which the bench fixed it for hearing on January 7.
The bench issued notices to the Centre, all states and Union Territories on the petition which has claimed that non-implementation of provisions of the Act by the states and Union Territories was a gross violation of life and liberty of the citizens.
The court asked Mr Mehta to look into the issue raised by the petitioner with seriousness saying it required immediate attention.
"This (chaining a person) is not only inhuman but also violative of the rights of such persons under Article 21 of the Constitution as a person suffering from mental disability is still a human being and his dignity cannot be compromised," the bench said.
The court also noted the submissions of petitioner that chaining a person suffering from mental illness was against the provisions of the Act.
In his PIL, the petitioner has said that chaining a person suffering from mental illness was a blatant violation of a provision of the 2017 Act which says that every such person shall not only have a right to live with dignity but he or she shall be protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
He has also sought a direction to Uttar Pradesh government to not only unchain these persons but also to provide mental health care treatment to them at the earliest.
Referring to the National Mental Health Survey 2016, he has claimed that around 14 per cent of India's population requires active mental health interventions and around 2 per cent Indians were suffering from severe mental disorders.
He has also sought a direction to all the states and UTs to start a programme to provide mental health care and treatment to persons with mental illness placed near or inside faith-based mental asylums.
Besides these, the PIL has sought direction to states and UTs to establish state mental health authority as also a fund as per the provisions of the Act.